Real Estate News Flash
Popping Fears of a Property Bubble -
Straits Time Money Section 25 Febuary 2014
Mortgages here just a fraction of property values, says Citigroup
SINGAPORE – Citigroup said it is “encouraging” that the country’s household debt tied to the real estate market is only a fraction of property values, downplaying concerns of a bubble.
Singapore’s $203 billion worth of mortgages amounted to 24.2 per cent of the value of residential properties in the third quarter, according to Citigroup’s analysis of government data.
The lender, the biggest employer among foreign banks on the island with 10,000 employees, offers housing and car loans as well as credit cards and other banking services.
“Nobody has walked me through the mechanics of a total crash of the real estate market for it to be compelling,” Mr Michael Zink, who heads Citigroup’s operations in South-east Asia, said in an interview last week.
“Ninety per cent of households live in a home that they own, so where’s the bubble?”
Singapore’s fourth-quarter home prices slid 0.9 per cent, falling for the first time in almost two years as the Government introduced more taxes and restrictions to widen a campaign that began in 2009 to curb speculation.
The central bank said last month that new residential loans have declined and household balance sheets are strong, following a Forbes article that claimed Singapore is headed for an “Iceland- style meltdown”.
Concerns of a property bubble came after home prices rose in the past five years to a record amid low interest rates.
Residential values have jumped 61 per cent since mid-2009, when they were at their lowest in 21/2 years following the 2008 global financial crisis.
After introducing taxes on property sales, the Government added them to home-buying and imposed mortgage limits.
Last June, the central bank also said financial institutions granting property loans need to ensure that individuals’ monthly repayments on all debt do not exceed 60 per cent of income.
Singapore’s mortgages exceed those in Hong Kong, ranked by Knight Frank as the most expensive city to buy a luxury home in Asia.
Hong Kong’s housing loans amounted to HK$900.3 billion (S$147.3 billion) at the end of the third quarter, according to data from the city’s central bank.
Mr Zink said Singapore’s housing market is unique because the majority of citizens live in government-built homes, where many families have already paid off their mortgages.
About 82 per cent of Singaporeans live in Housing Board flats, according to the housing authority’s website.
“So if it goes up and down a little bit, for an asset they can’t sell, does it really affect them much? I don’t think so,” said Singapore- based Mr Zink, 55, who has lived in Asian cities, including Jakarta and Guangzhou, for 17 years.
Singapore’s biggest bank and developer said in the past two weeks that they expect home prices to fall this year.
That drop may also drive up the ratio between loans and the property values.
DBS Group Holdings said on Feb 14 that there will probably be a 10 per cent to 15 per cent reduction in home prices this year.
DBS’ mortgage portfolio has been stress-tested to withstand a 30 per cent drop, chief executive officer Piyush Gupta said.
Mr Lim Ming Yan, chief executive of CapitaLand, the region’s biggest developer, said last week that the Government may ease some of its curbs if home prices fall by as much as 10 per cent.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in the nation’s Budget speech last Friday that it is too early for the Government to start relaxing its measures, given the run-up in prices in the past four years.
“We are not engineering a hard landing,” he said in Parliament. “Our cooling measures have been aimed at moderating the market so as to prevent property prices from getting too far out of line with incomes.”
CapitaLand also said housing demand is expected to “further moderate” with the curb on borrowing levels and concerns that interest rates will rise.
The loan restriction in June “is the silver bullet the Government has been looking for”, said Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director and head of research at SLP International Property Consultants.
“The potential for a bubble has been greatly deflated.”
Mr Mak estimated that 65,000 private homes could be completed between this year and 2016.
The housing authority will release another 24,300 new apartments this year, it said in a statement last month. These homes, which cost less than those sold by private developers, are typically offered with a 99-year lease.
“There’s a reason why the Government has released a lot of new land,” Mr Zink said. “There’s underlying demand for that segment of housing.”
The 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis and the outbreak of Sars in 2003 are reference points to build into stress tests, Mr Zink said.
Property prices dropped by 2 per cent in 2003, falling for a fourth year and capping the longest stretch of losses since Singapore started compiling the data about two decades ago.
Housing values slumped by 42 per cent in the two years during the regional crisis, according to the data.
Citigroup, which also offers private banking services in Singapore, said the net worth of Singapore residents has risen by 38 per cent over four years, based on its analysis of government data.
The country’s households had $874.7 billion in financial assets at the end of the third quarter, eclipsing the $837.9 billion they hold in real estate assets, the bank said.
“There are a lot of households in this country that are financially very stable,” Mr Zink said.
Weeko Lee is a CES certified Real Estate Salesperson with a Second Class Upper Honours degree in Bachelor of Electronics & Electrical Engineering. She was formerly an Engineer before joining the real estate industry. Today she specializes in resale, rentals & new launches of private & commercial development. She has been in the field for nearly 4 years, and has been loving every minute of it!
Weeko’s achievement was as, being one of the Top Achievers for 2010 & 2011 working on Resale & Rentals. Now, she is also actively hunting for the best new launches for her most valued clients.
Her mission is to fulfil her clients’ real estate needs through her professional real estate service. Essentially, she will continually strive to hunt for the best properties that will match my clients’ needs & requirement.
Guru of Property SG | Singapore New Launch Commercial & Residential Properties for Sale
Check out Singapore Commercial, Industrial & Residential Properties for Sale in the GuruOfPropertySG website which Weeko has in line at this one-stop property portal to for investment or for own stay. The Condo & Commercial Property reviews serve as guidelines for decision to place your money in the property that best suit your portfolio.